COVID-19 has made telework an integral part of many people’s daily lives. Many employers are currently wondering to what extent they should keep offering the option to work from home in the post-pandemic future – and how to compensate workers if they cannot offer this option.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the attractiveness of telework, employers cannot rely on existing global scientific findings as they are not specific or causally interpretable. A new IZA discussion paper by Eline Moens, Stijn Baert, Elsy Verhofstadt and Luc Van Ootegem therefore aims to provide answers to the questions: How much pay are people prepared to give up for more telework? What type of employees are attracted to telework? And why?
The Ghent University researchers had a representative sample of 500 Flemish employees participate in an experiment in which they had to evaluate job offers, with respect to general attractiveness and other job perceptions. These offers differed in several respects, including pay and the degree of teleworking offered.
Is a job offer with more telework more attractive?
The study shows that a job with more telework opportunities is perceived as more attractive. If the number of possible teleworking hours increases by 10 percentage points, for example from 20% (one day in a full-time week) to 30% (one and a half days), people are satisfied with 2.3 percentage points less pay increase.
A full-time employee appreciates one extra day of teleworking almost as much as a 5 percentage points higher pay raise in the new job. In other words, if in a new job the salary would normally increase by 10%, an increase of only 5% would be just as acceptable if the difference is offset by an extra day of teleworking.
The study is the first to demonstrate that the link between telework opportunities and job attraction is more or less linear: each (half) day of more telework opportunity leads to more attraction to the job. So there is no ceiling above which more teleworking opportunities are no longer seen as extra attractive.
Why is teleworking so attractive?
The attractiveness of teleworking is explained in particular by expectations of a better work-life balance, more autonomy in terms of work planning and more autonomy in terms of work methods in jobs with more teleworking opportunities.
The authors thus suggest that in jobs where telework is less feasible, it is particularly important that employers communicate their efforts to facilitate work-life balance, work-planning autonomy, work-method autonomy and decision-making autonomy.
However, the researchers also put forward a negative expectation in connection with increased teleworking opportunities, namely in terms of the quality of the relationship with colleagues.
Who appreciates telework more?
The research also shows that employees who are more conscientious are generally less attracted to better telework opportunities. A possible explanation for this finding is that in some jobs it is not possible to perform tasks from home as efficiently as from the central work location, so more dutiful employees may find teleworking less attractive.
According to the authors, employers should thus keep a close eye on the self-selection of less conscientious employees into jobs with more telework to avoid lower productivity.